There is no drug, which can kill the polio virus but the infection can be prevented by vaccination. Infection with polio virus can cause subclinical infections, non-paralytic and paralytic polio. Treatment aims to provide relief from symptoms as the body fights the poliovirus. This type of treatment is called supportive care.
Supportive care for treatment of polio includes:
- Pain and fever relief with medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- Fluid intake
- Rest until the fever and other symptoms improve
Most people with subclinical infections and nonparalytic polio improve in 2-10 days. During supportive care, the patient is monitored for progression to paralytic polio.
Treatment for paralytic polio
Patients with paralytic polio are monitored closely for signs and symptoms of respiratory failure: a life-threatening complication of polio. Supportive care for paralytic polio includes pain killer medications to reduce headache, muscle pain and spasms; moist heat (heating pads, warm towels) to reduce muscle pain and spasms; fluids and nutritious diet. Narcotic analgesics are usually not prescribed as they increase the risk of breathing problems and complications.
Treatment of paralytic poliomyelitis besides supportive care includes:
- Physical therapy: It aims to minimize damage to paralyzed muscles and help the person recover mobility with resolution of acute illness. Treatment for residual paralysis after the acute phase of illness includes physical therapy, braces or corrective shoes or orthopaedic surgery depending on the muscle that is affected.
- Antibiotics: Long term antibiotics may be needed to prevent urinary tract infection if the bladder muscles do not contract normally and the bladder does not empty completely. Urinary catheters may be used to empty the bladder if the bladder is affected.
- Mechanical breathing support: If the chest muscles are affected so much that they cannot move the lungs (cannot breathe), the person will need mechanical ventilation (breathing support). Mechanical ventilation involves placing a tube into their windpipe (the trachea) and providing air by a machine called a ventilator that moves air in and out of the lungs. If a person needs long term mechanical ventilation, he has to live in a facility, which has nurses and therapists, who are skilled in respiratory care.